PAU, France – Julian Alaphilippe, a challenger to the Tour de France, who was clearly hiding, slid sideways across the finishing line of the Friday time trial in a lavish, conspicuous stop like a child who had just won neighborhood rights ,  He fell into the arms of the Deceuninck Quick Step team and then dismounted, sat down and started laughing. And why not? The joke was on all predictors whose only pre-13th stage question was how much time Alaphilippe would lose in a three-week race against defending champion Geraint Thomas and others as a more durable rider.
Instead, Alaphilippe had won the stage and gained another 14 seconds on Thomas, the second-fastest driver on the hilly 1
But Alaphilippe has already done what many consider unlikely: Let everyone think about his long-range abilities while the tour is in their final week.
"I am an actor and a bystander in what I do," 27-year-old Gold Alaphilippe said as he made his way through a reception line of television and print interviews. He tried to describe the surreal feeling of wearing the jersey for four days of racing, knowing that French hopes of ending a 35-year title shutout are embedded in the fabric. But in what has become a familiar refrain in the last few days, he kept repeating that it was not advisable to "dream too much".
Was this caution meant for oneself? Was it meant for French fans? Is it a bit of acting by a rider who seems to be in the shape of his life? In modern cycling, top riders usually stay on the same track. Alaphilippe, who is best suited as a "puncher" for one-day or at most week-long races, seems to qualify for 15 laps.
The individual time trial on Friday took a strange place here Tour de France: In the middle of the race, short and hilly, no real change on a course heavily loaded for climbers, important, but not as crucial as often in a later positioning.
Slotted the day after The first trip to the Pyrenees – a leg that ended in a long descent – prompted the ITT's outlook on its ambitions: it started without the Australian time-trial world champion Rohan Dennis Thursday's departure: Another of the stage's favorites, Wout van Aert, crashed into a barrier just before the finish and was operated on by the Belgian media to repair an injured right thigh.
Even with a less brilliant ride from Alaphilippe on Friday, the course that headed south from Pau and then clockwise back to the city center was too short for Thomas and other top drivers Alaphilippe The leadership would have moved out. But at this point it was almost natural that Thomas would prevail.
"If he keeps this up, he wins the tour," said Thomas, the Welsh head of the Ineos team, who knows Alaphilippe's dark horse position is good after he took her in the 2018 Tour when he finished second to Chris Froome Should play the violin.
Several other contenders kept away from both Alaphilippe and Thomas, notably Steven Kruijswijk (2: 12 ahead of Alaphilippe), Thibaut Pinot (3:04) of Groupama-FDJ, who bore the brunt of French aspirations ahead of the tour and Rigoberto Uran (3:22), First Chairman of EF Education in Colombia.  Both Pinot and Uran lost time last Monday when Crosswind split the peloton and EF Education First's first push was fired back in the words of General Manager Jonathan Vaughters: "We've set ourselves the goal." others are sure to ride Saturday, agressive and again Sunday in a period of relentless climbing that leads to the second destination uphill on the Prat d & # 39; Albis near Foix. But Alaphilippe has been enriched by his 24-year-old Spanish team-mate Enric Mas, who finished second in the Vuelta a Espana last year and quietly advanced to fourth overall. He could protect Alaphilippe or become the team's ace if the French driver would fold.
Alaphilippe had a number of prestigious puncher victories in his resume and had a strong time trial over a similar course in last year's Criterium du Dauphine. Even so, on an "open" tour in the absence of an injured Froome, Alaphilippe was not on a radar to engage in conversation so deeply in the race.
"Tomorrow is a different song," he said. "Totally different from before."
Friday was the 100th anniversary of the first time the guide's iconic raiment was presented to a tour guide little marketing to highlight it among the usefulness Gray worn by most of the peloton In the course of a century, there is no danger that Alaphilippe will be overlooked when the road actually leads up.